The Page High School Patriots advanced to the second round of the TSSAA 5A playoffs after 34–14 victory over Wilson Central High School Wildcats Friday night.
The Patriots (10-1) did it with defense first. They had four forced turnovers, including a 35-yard interception return for touchdown by Caden Walker, which put the Patriots up 34-7 with 3:25 left to go in the game. It came just seconds after he scored from two yards out at the running back position.
“Caden Walker played really really well at running back and linebacker tonight,” Page head coach Charles Rathbone said. “Anytime you get turnovers, that's huge, and everybody wants to win a turnover game. Hopefully, that's a trend that continues for us.”
Walker finished the game with 12 carries for 104 yards and the touchdown on the ground to go along with a pick-six on defense. His brother, Cason, also had an interception.
The game itself was much closer for most of the game then the final score indicated.
The Patriots moved the ball down inside the Wildcats’ 20-yard line on the opening drive, before Brock Hogan fumbled the ball to Wilson Central.
The defense would hold, and allow senior quarterback and Colorado State University commit Jake McNamara to lead the team on a long drive of their own, which culminated in a 1-yard rollout strike to Trent Gephart to put the Patriots up 7-0 early in the second quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts on the next two drives, McNamara found Max Collins on a short pass, which he turned into a 40-yard touchdown reception to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead with 2:57 left to play in the half.
Wilson Central nearly put points on the board in the first half after a 33-yard run off a fake punt, but the Patriots defense held them to a missed field goal attempt as time expired.
Both teams traded possessions in the third quarter with no scores. Wilson Central’s Blake Hobbs put the Wildcats on the board with a 5-yard touchdown after a long methodical drive with 8:42 left to play in the game.
Wilson Central controlled the ball for much of the game rushing for 303 yards on 54 attempts and possessing the ball for over 35 minutes of game time. The team only passed two times for six yards.
Rathbone thought the offense played well but didn't get a lot of possessions to make things happen.
“It’s that Wing-T, three yards and a cloud of dust,” Rathbone said. “Really, they got a lot of their yards on that one drive and then garbage time at the end of the game. That happens at times, but overall defense played really well.”
McNamara would answer with a two-yard rushing touchdown to make it 21-7 with 6: 22 left to play. The Tennessee Titans 5A Mr. Football semifinalist finished 12/17 for 124 yards and two touchdowns through the air and 89 yards and the score on the ground.
Page recovered the football on the ensuing kickoff, which led to Walker’s rushing touchdown and interception return to put the game out of reach and end the Wildcat’s season.
Hobbs scored his second of the night in the final minute to give the game its final score.
The Patriots will host Nolensville next week after they defeated Station Camp 52-21 Friday. The Patriots defeated Nolensville, 40-22, on Oct.8.
Coach Rathbone believes that will have a little impact on the matchup next week.
“You never want to play a team twice in one year, that's for sure,” Rathbone said. “But it's like a new season, so you gotta throw the records and the old game out the window, come back, and prepare like it's a brand-new game. You've got to play, you've got to play to win, and we'll see what happens.